Sunday, May 12, 2013

ROVANIEMI.....Places and People.

Still in Suomi...

Finland won't let me go. I'm not complaining either.
I don't think I've been in one place for so long since I started this trip over 3 years ago. Well, maybe Holland at LBS for nearly 4 months while the sidecar was being built. 
But since I arrived here at the Arctic Circle in Rovaniemi in February, I've kept myself busy enough not to really notice this large amount of time go by while being in the same place. And realizing also that these periods of seemingly inactive or static moments in my trip are not at all that static or inactive in reality. Quite the opposite in fact, as they are and have been filled with hours, days and weeks of work, of photography and of writing, of editing my digital captures and filing them away in virtual folders on my laptop in as best an order as my terrible organizational skills will allow. 

Being able to stay here at the Karu MC has been a blessing in disguise to a quite a large degree, both in being physically able to be here for so long at the clubhouse as a guest, and getting so much help and support from the club members and people I have been meeting here in Rovaniemi.
Maybe I needed to slow down a little. Or at least organize, re-group, and my favorite word that I detest using and also enacting, plan. Plan the road ahead, which you can't really plan as it's the future. All you can do is when it comes, then just live it.

I really cannot say enough good things about all the guys here at the club, all just a really great collection of souls. All brothers in our fraternity of the motorcyclist, we share the same bond the world over, unhindered by religion, politics, nationality or race. We are all motorcyclists.

I was talking to Heikki, the president of Karu MC, one day over coffee about how my stay keeps getting extended in time, and making sure that it's ok that I am still here at Karu MC for so long, and his answer to me was simply "who's counting"?. 

I was supposed to depart here well over a month ago, ride down to Brescia in Italy and be arriving there within the next day or so to meet John, Grace and DriveAwayCancer as they took part in this years 2013 Mille Miglia. However, due again to a change of plans, John and Grace will not be coming over for this event, at least not this month. However, we are in discussions for another trip together, which I can say that if it does happen and materialize, will be a long, lengthy and very very challenging one. A trip full of intrigue, mystery, languages I can't speak or understand. Hmm, sounds juicy already.
For now, we're talking of John and Grace shipping over to a point in Europe, probably London, where I will ride over and meet up with them, and from there the (plan) is to travel through England north to Scotland, ship over to Ireland, then back to, well, somewhere in the EU in October to start to arrange the second part of the trip. We shall see, but as things transpire I will be writing about the developments and updating here on the blog.

I've also been doing some modifications and projects to the outfit that I have been thinking about for a while now, but was never able to do up to this point because I never stayed long enough in any one place to get them done, along with not actually having a garage or facility to be able to do the work in.

Another Karu MC clubmember, Ari Vilanders, was an enormous help to me when I arrived here, letting me use his garage and helping me get some wiring done, mount the Vanguard Camera Case on the back, frames for the Reindeer leg protectors, and then fabbing up the mount for the WARN XT17 Motorcycle Winch that WARN shipped over to me. Thanks again Ari, all your help was invaluable and very much appreciated. Kiitos Kiitos.
But even after all Ari's work and help, I still had some things that, during the course of my travels from Holland up to Nordkapp and back down to Finland, I wanted to add to the outfit that would make my life aboard my sidecar a little more comfortable while living nearly full-time on the outfit. Things that you only figure out and design in your head after living on the road, day in and day out, for long periods of time. Like a built-in fold down table for example. A place to put items on instead of on the ground as I unload the outfit at camp for instance. A little breakfast table maybe. A table that was possibly attached to the bike and not something that was a separate entity and required assembly.... my 'assembly required' table from my time in Sweden.

It just took up too much space in the sidecar even when collapsed. It really isn't compact enough and practical for motorcycle travel. Well, it is if you only travel for a month or two every year, but when every little bit of space counts, it matters.
What I really wanted was to have the table as a built-in part of the outfit, be functional as well as cleverly designed. The little things in life, they make me so happy these days. 

The beginning of the table, the frame, in the "up" position....

....and the "down" position.

While designing the outfit back in Holland at LBS, I mentioned to Ad that maybe a fold-down table could somehow be incorporated into the rear bumper, so that's the way the bumper was built, with two holes in it with a table in mind. You can see the two bolts going through the holes in the pic above.
But that's as far as we got. We never did have time to finish it before I left Holland, but it's always been on my mind to do whenever I got the chance. Every time I stopped to camp for the night and unpacked, unless I stopped in a place where I had a wooden picnic table beside the outfit, all my gear got unloaded onto the ground. If it was raining, well, it all got wet or had to stay in the trunk. Something had to be done, I had to get a better and more functional system.

Friend and fellow Karu MC member Timo Happonen, whose 1934 H-D VFD Sidecar outfit has been featured here last month, came to the rescue. 
Timo is a goldsmith by trade. A trained craftsman, he also teaches fine metalworking at Lapin Ammattiopisto, a vocational school here in Rovaniemi. So Timo had the idea of giving his students some real world projects to do, and my table was one of them.

Yes, that Anvil is just as big as it looks.

The facilities at the school are a full on machine shop, where students have the use of all types of machinery from drill presses and lathes to state of the art CNC machines.

A Nexus 200 CNC Multi Axis lathe. Every workshop should have one of these.

We used perforated aluminium (no, it's not aluminum here in Europe, it's aluminium) for the table bottom, figuring (or hoping) that the perforations would be large enough to let the rear sidecar lights be visible through.

Voila. Now, when I remove stuff from the trunk, I drop the table down and have a place to put them on. It really makes such a great difference. 
I told you, it's the little things now.

And we were right about the light being able to show through the slots, worked like a charm. So now I have a breakfast/ utility table that takes up no room in the sidecar or on the bike, is attached to the outside and not only looks good but is incredibly utilitarian and extremely practical. I am so happy with it.
My thanks to all the students who were involved in this project. You did a great job.

While I had the use of the large workshop area, it gave me the chance to do some maintenance to the bike, like repairing the output driveshaft CV joint rubber boots. Over time, one of the boots had cracked and broken. Inside the boot is grease that lubricates the half shaft CV joints, so if there's a crack in the boot, the grease will slowly start to come out all over the underside of the sidecar. So I decided to go ahead and replace them both while I had the half shaft out.

Step 1, remove the half shaft and take off the old rubber boots, remove the bearing baskets and bearings, and remove the old grease. I know, that's technically three steps in one, but who's counting.

Step 2, slip the two new boots on over the shaft.

Step 3, put the bearings back in and pack them in with new grease. That should last me a lifetime. 

Step 4, re-install the shaft assembly back into the sidecar. Easy peasy.

And while I was at it, I designed an extra pair of side shelves for the sidecar and again enlisted the help of the students. Nice work guys, thank you. 

It's a great place for storing items that I don't use everyday or that don't need to be taking up valuable space inside the sidecar or trunk, like the WARN Winch Recovery Gear kit. Hopefully, the amount of times I will have to utilize the contents of that bag will be minimal, but now at least, thanks to WARN, I have them to utilize should I find myself in trouble.

The inside shelf, between the sidecar and the bike. 

The next project "in progress" is a rear fender, hand shaped on an english wheel. I only realized just how much I needed fenders when I switched to car tires on the outfit. A big 195/75-17 tire throws up a whole lot more road dirt and rain water than a skinny motorcycle tire. It soaks everything. It hasn't been an issue yet as when I left Holland I didn't encounter much rain on my way to Sweden. By the time I got to Sweden in November, winter was well on the way. Temperature were low, well below zero, no rain. 
From November until now, all I've been riding in has been snow, no need for fenders. But now spring is here, no more snow, lots of slush and rain. 
I needed fenders. Big ones.

Here, Timo explains to one of the students how to shrink metal by hand without  using a shrinking tool.

This particular method is called "tuck shrinking". You create a fold and just tuck it under. 

In it's final stages, next week will see it completed.

I'm also working on designing a foot box, a protective foot box to keep my feet dry and warm. My thinking behind it is that in extremely cold weather, like -15°C and below, it will direct the flow of heat from the exhaust pipe and cylinder heads and channel it down toward my feet, thereby help to keep my feet from freezing.

When it's finished it may work, it may not. I won't be able to find out until next winter though. But it's fun making these additions all the same.

Here in Rovaniemi, there are two places that I go to take advantage of internet. One of them is Kauppayhtiö coffee shop, a super cool, retro themed coffee shop, sushi, and sandwich bar, where everything that isn't nailed down is for sale. Students fill the place for the most part, but it attracts all types of all ages, young and old alike.

Last March I was interviewed and featured in the newspaper Lapin Kansa here in Rovaniemi. It was viewed by many people here in the town, and as a result, I've become a very recognizable person it seems, as people, townspeople I don't know and never met, wave to me on the street as I go by or from their cars as they pass me or are stopped by me at traffic lights. It's a very warm feeling to be so accepted by the town, and honored to be thought of in such a positive light. While working on my laptop at Kauppayhtiö one day, I noticed that some students sitting a few tables over from me appeared to recognize me, but seemed a little shy to actually approach me or say anything. The Finns are like that, on the reserved and shy side.
I finished my work and as I was leaving for the day, they smiled and waved over at me, which I thought was a very nice gesture, so I went over to say hi and thanks for the recognition. Well, we ended up talking for quite a bit, and I arranged to meet them again the following week and take some photos of them.

The author, Miina, Rosalúna and Samuel.

We've met a number of times since, and one day I went to my other temporary office, the City Hotel. When I went to my usual spot inside the lobby, the reception desk handed me a small gold envelope that was left at the desk for me during the week.

Well, how nice. What could it be?.

Inside the envelope was wonderful little stream of sunshine, a very thoughtful and touching note from Miina, Rosalúna and Samuel accompanied by a gift of a hand carved reindeer antler ring, inscribed on the inside with all three of their names.

You are all three very special people, and thanks to you and your wonderful gift, which now adorns the leather string on my reindeer pouch, I will always be reminded of you all and hope that your lives are turning out into what you always wanted them to be. And don't forget, if they're not, then change it. 
You have the power. And the choice to do so.

And speaking of City Hotel.

My "other" office is a hotel.

Warm, cosy, inviting, friendly, and very hospitable. That's City Hotel.
Opened by Heikki and Vuokko Gröhn in March of 1978, City Hotel here in Rovaniemi, Finland is where I can be found on many days of the week while my stay here in Finland lengthens.

My office.

Heikki, the president of Karu MC, brought me to City Hotel first in February, not long after my arrival in Rovaniemi. We came for the lunch buffet, and I've been raving about it and coming here ever since. I've even turned some locals on to it who didn't know about what a great deal it was. For €10.50 you get an all you can eat lunch buffet with an wonderful assortment of salads, a soup of the day, and a choice of three main meat, fish or chicken dishes. It's a no brainer. Which is good for me since it sometimes seems these days I only have half a brain leftover from my youth. I do things like go to the supermarket with a list already written over the past few days, only to either forget to take the list, or just forget to look at it while shopping. It hurts sometimes to be me.

The MonteRosa restaurant in the City Hotel.

Bull Bar and Grill, City Hotel, Rovaniemi, Finland.

And this being Finland, hockey ranks second only to soccer, so what better place to watch the NHL and Stanly Cup games than downstairs in the Bull Bar in the hotel.
During the day, I sit in the lobby while working on my laptop. 
I watch, I look around and I see the townspeople walk by outside, all on their way to somewhere important. Important to them, it's their life, and their living it at that moment.
I also see the plates of food being brought from the kitchen downstairs to the Bull Bar, and I haven't seen a pate of food yet that I don't want to try. They all look delicious. Especially the fries. Especially. They have those thick as your finger real man fries, not the woosey shoestring cutsie baby fries. Love me some really proper thick fries.
I remember as a kid back in my hometown of Bray in Ireland, I guess I was about 10 or so, that I would, after school, walk down to and wait in Ina's house ( a friend of my Mum's) until my Mum picked me up when she finished work. Well, while I waited, Ina would make chips (fries) for her kids and also myself, and they were THE BEST fries ever. I still remember Ina and her fries to this dayThick, they were thick and crispy. I mean, just perfect. And since then, I have never gotten used to those skinny, flimsy, shoestring baby fries that after you eat them, you still feel hungry. Just cut the damn potato into 8 pieces already, that's all the man fries you're going to get out of an average size spud anyway. Enough with this shoestring stuff.

City Hotel has a great breakfast buffet too, and even though I haven't tried everything on the breakfast table, if looks are anything to go by, it's all set up and presented in such a way as to make the palate moisten and anticipate the onslaught of all the very well prepared food. Presentation is everything, if it doesn't look appetizing, it's not going to make you feel like eating it. And that's one of City Hotels strong suites. How it presents itself, from the staff all the way to the food.

Sannu, City Hotel, Rovaniemi.

The non-alcoholic wine was a very nice touch. 

My time and stay here in Rovaniemi so far has allowed me, I feel, to be able to breathe a little. All of the new additions to the outfit will be a great help in the coming years of travel I hopefully have left to do. It's also shown me a slice of life in a town and a country that, until I stopped and got delayed here, had no idea existed. It's one of the reasons that last year when my "plan" was ride up to Nordkapp and back down to Helsinki and over into Russia that I decided to stay longer in Sweden, to smell the coffee and see a little slice of life there, knowing full well that I probably wouldn't be able to make it to Nordkapp and down and over to Russia in time to use my 3 month visa. It was worth it to pass up my Russian visa, the experiences I've had so far have more then made up and far out value the original cost of the visa to begin with.

But wait, there's more.....

I just received the new Wherethehellismurph postcards from the printers on Thursday, so I'll be including them in all of the 2013 WTHIM Decal sets.
So, here's what you get in the 2013 Wherethehellismurph decal set:
3 postcards and 4 decals, (2) 2013 decals, (1) 2012 decal and a decal.  
To purchase just click the Buy Now button or Click Here.

This is the only way for now that I can fund my trip, so it may sound like a lot to ask for some stickers, but rather than just ask for donations and give nothing in return, I feel like this is a better trade. Although, this post is an 85 picture post, so I also feel that I put a tremendous amount of work into this and every other post I put up here on my blog, so it's not exactly nothing.

The WTHIM Decal Set price is a fixed price on the "Buy Now" button. If you wish to donate more than the actual cost of the sticker set, just click the "Donate" button instead, and in the "notes" portion of the PayPal checkout, leave me a message and let me know that you are making a donation and would also like a sticker set.

If you've read this far and are not already signed up as a follower, it only takes a minute to do so and show your support for my efforts here on the blog. Just click on the "Join This Site" link over in the right column.

Thank you all for your continued support,


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This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


Anonymous said...

As usual Murph you have shared an incredible story with absolutely amazing photos. The hotel should hire you to do their press photography. Your use of available light is fantastic and shows a great facility with photons...LOL Glad to see you're doing so well and making ever more friends on your journey. Stay safe my friend.

Unknown said...

Hi Nick and thanks for the positive comments. I'm talking with the hotel about the photos, they did say they would like to use some of them for their new brochures. We'll see.
I only shoot available light, never use flash. Hate flash. Even though I have a $400 Nikon unit, I never use it.

Thanks for stopping by Nick,


redlegsrides said...

That's some nice looking add-ons Murph! I am curious though how the table will affect or be affected by air flowing over and through it as you ride at highway speeds.


Unknown said...


Yea, there's a few more to come, little creature comforts.

And the BMW 1150 GS, as incredibly aerodynamic as it is (!!) will probably not be affected by the table at all. The whole front of my outfit will more than likely stop most if not all of the wind before it reaches the table in the back.... :-)

Anonymous said...

Hi Murph,

About three days ago I stumbled upon your blog. I must say that I am hooked on it. It took me three days to go through your posts and I enjoyed every minute of my time. The photos are superb and your insight in the human condition are to be commended. As a person who is about your age and used to like riding, you are an inspiration to me and others. Keep well and will try and meet you when you hit OZ.

Gareth (STRETCH) Kahl South Australia.

Andrius said...

Thank You for sharing this amazing experience with us.
Waiting for more.

Best wishes from Lithunia, hope to meet You here.
P.S. Your bike is turning into real motorhome van :)
Goog luck.